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Kramer quizzes Henley on the Oak Processionary Moth

May 1, 2011 10:58 AM

• [Apr 27] Baroness Kramer (Liberal Democrat): TO ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to eradicate oak processionary moth.

Lord Henley (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Conservative): My Lords, Forest Research has moved from a strategy of eradication to one of containment in the west London outbreak area. Outside this, a protected zone has been declared, within which regular surveys will be conducted to ensure that any new infestations are eradicated.

Baroness Kramer: My Lords, I must declare an interest as a patron of the Friends of Richmond Park. Richmond Park will spend £50,000 or more this year to remove nests of that moth in order that the public can continue to use the park.

The Minister will be aware that the health hazards of the oak processionary moth caterpillar are such that to remove the nests people have to be in full chemical contamination gear, including breathing apparatus. Therefore, he will understand that I am very distressed that the eradication programme has now been set aside. Can he tell us how containment is going to work; and can he give assurances that areas of oak woodland will not have to be closed to the public, as they have been in Holland and Germany, because of the impact of this moth?

Lord Henley (Parliamentary: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for all she has said. She is quite right in, first, underlining the public health issues and, secondly, underlining the fact that some oak woodland areas might have to be removed from public access, as has happened in other parts of the EU, although we hope that it will not happen here.

The reason we have moved from eradication to containment is based on scientific advice that eradication within the five boroughs in south-west London that the noble Baroness is aware of is not possible. We managed to eradicate the outbreaks in Leeds and Sheffield but we got on to those much earlier. We did not get on to this outbreak, which started in the summer of 2006, early enough and therefore it will be very difficult to get rid of it. However, we are very grateful for all the work being done by Forest Research, Fera and by Kew Gardens, which also has an interest as it is right in the middle of the area.

• Full Debate in Parliament

• Oak processionary moth - Thaumetopoea processionea